My first attempt at making these cheese straws was a learning experience. If the dough mixture is too thick it’s a nightmare to get through a cookie press. If the dough mixture is too thin the straw will flatten out as they bake and you’ll end up with a pan full of sadness. But, I did finally get it just right and oh, man, are these cheese straws more than just a little addicting! Crunchy and packed with cheese flavor you can’t eat just one handful.
I dusted the baked cheese straws with cayenne and smoked paprika, but you could try other flavors too. Italian seasoning for example, for a more savory approach. Or perhaps a little Ranch dressing mix.
I think you could also try other cheeses, specially something like a Monterey Jack or Swiss.
1/2 cup butter plus 1-3 more tablespoons, softened
2 cups shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese, divided
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne, plus more for dusting
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika, plus more for dusting
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
Preheat your oven to 375 F.
Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.
Place 1/2 cup of the butter in a mixer with the paddle attached.
Add 1 cup of the cheese and mix for 5-7 minutes until smooth, scraping down the sides as it goes.
In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, salt, cayenne, smoked paprika, black pepper and garlic powder.
With the mixer still running, slowly add the flour mixture.
Add the remaining cheese.
Test the consistency of the batter. If it is really thick it might not go thru your cookie press or dessert decorator. If it is too thick, add another tablespoon of the softened butter and mix. Continue until just thin enough to press but not thin and runny.
Spoon mixture into your cookie press with a large star tip on the end.
Pipe out onto the parchment paper.
Bake 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.
Remove from oven and dust with cayenne and smoked paprika, then transfer to a cooling rack.
I like making little treats for Anita to take to work and share with her co-workers. This time I decided to skip the sweets and send along some great savory baked seasoned Ritz crackers. Nothing fancy, but wonderfully tasty. Great on their own or with a creamy smooth dip or even better, slathered with goat’s cheese! You could substitute something other than Ritz crackers for this snack, but I’d lean towards something buttery if you do. You want to keep that savory creamy theme going. And make sure you keep an eye on them as they bake. They can quickly turn from golden brown to … very very golden brown!
The reason I made such a big batch of these cheddar pretzel bites isn’t because I needed a huge amount for a family get-together. Sure, I needed some, but not a ton. Nope, I made a big batch because I wanted more for myself. Sorry, but it’s true. I was being selfish, but for a good reason. I love them. Crunchy, a bit buttery, and definitely cheesy. You don’t have to use pretzels to make these cheddar bites. If you prefer, any cracker will do, specially oyster crackers or saltines. Just don’t substitute something that is strongly flavored and might not go well with the cheddar. That would make for a bowl of sadness.
On Sundays I often find myself wanting to make a little something, a little treat or snack, for Anita to take into work the next day and share with her co-workers. I try and mix it up but I usually end up making something sweet like these chocolate-dipped peanut butter Bugles. Yep, they’re just as good as you’re thinking. Bugles piped full of creamy peanut butter, then dipped in melted chocolate. After a little time passes for the chocolate to harden they’re ready to devour. Ok, sure, some didn’t quit finish setting up before I ate them. That’s going to happen. There’s two tricks to getting chocolate-dipped peanut butter Bugles just right. First, you have to dig through the bag and find all the treats with big openings. I actually bought two bags to make sure I got enough of them. Fear not, because I’ll use the less-than-pretty ones to make both Sriracha Bugles and Ragin’ Cajun Cheddar Bugles.
The second thing to keep in mind is that you need to thin the peanut butter down enough to be able to pipe it. But, you don’t want it so thin that it just runs right out of the ole Bugles, you know? It’s easy enough to fix if you get the mix too thin – just add more peanut butter. And of course if it’s too thick add a bit (a bit!) more water.
I loved making simple little bites like these pizza pretzel nuggets. They took no time, little ingredients, and came out great. This recipe makes a decent-sized batch of snacks, enough for Anita to take to work and share with her co-workers. Every bite has a wonderful, light pizza flavor. You’ll think you’re biting into your favorite deep-dish pie. Just the right combination of pizza sauce, cheese, and yes, salty crunchiness.
I left out the red pepper flake since I didn’t know how that’d go over at her office, but for me, this dish could use a bit of spiciness. It’s great on it’s own, don’t get me wrong, but I’m always of the opinion that spicy is better.
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My goodness. Putting a bowl of these in front of me requires me to exercise self-control like I’ve rarely been forced to do before. Balsamic pretzel bites are a totally different take on the usual salty, often cheesy, tasty morsels. The balsamic glaze takes about 20 minutes to make, but it’s so worth the effort. You want the glaze to be a bit thick, thick enough that it sticks to the back of a spoon. The tart sweetness of the balsamic vinegar works perfectly on pretzels. You can use any glaze actually. You don’t have to use ‘just’ balsamic. I’m contemplating trying some of the same glazes I use even on the grill, such as peach mango habanero, or sweet and spicy apricot. It often pays to think outside the box!
I love making treats like this southwestern snack mix for Anita to take to work and share with her co-workers. Of course, whatever she takes has to be yummy and it has to make a pretty good-sized batch, enough to feed over 20 peoples. And some times, I like to sneak in just a bit of spiciness. This mix checks all of the boxes, and it’s easy to make to boot. Popcorn, Chex cereal, Fritos and Cheez-Its. All those goodies in one bowl. I used my homemade taco seasoning when I made the Southwestern snack mix because I like to be able to control the spiciness and the texture. I often grind my spice mixes to get them a bit finer to avoid the chances of someone biting into a bit chunk of say, oregano. You can of course use a packet of taco seasoning, but if you’re making the mix for a crowd you might want to use the mild mix instead of the spicy.
Ever since I made a batch of Fire-Eater saltines I just cannot stop making flavor after flavor of crackers. You can use just about any seasoning you like, but whatever you do, you have to make these bagel-seasoned saltines. Poppy and sesame seeds combined with onion and garlic flavors, with just a hint of fennel (use a little or a lot, but start with a little) make for the perfect combination. There’s really no point in only making one sleeve of these saltines, they won’t last that long at all. The seasoning may have trouble adhering to the crackers. If that happens to you add a bit more oil or just sprinkle the saltines with a bit more seasoning right before serving. Either way, everyone will love these bagel-seasoned saltines.